Juneteenth ceremony in Arlington Heights: 'Today is the beginning of a journey'

About 100 people attended an outdoor, socially distanced Juneteenth remembrance service Friday night in the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights, and the Rev. Alex Lang had a message for them.

"I want you to know that this is not a once and done service for us," Lang said. "This is a major step for our community here. And today is the beginning of a journey where we are going to be making a commitment to walk with the oppressed and to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to fight against racism and discrimination in this country."

Besides the scripture, reflection and prayer, the event featured music performed by Adam Hendrickson, director of music and worship. He played guitar and sang Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," about the death of a 51-year-old Black barmaid at the hands of William Zantzinger, a white Maryland tobacco farmer, in 1963.

Palatine resident Floyd Mays spoke about his experiences as a Black man living in the suburbs. Mays fought back tears as he described "the pain and anguish that my people have been feeling for decades."

"Just like you, I have to wake up every day and think about the things I have to get done and the errands I may have to run. But unlike you, I have to think always how I can avoid and have minimum interactions and contact with police officers to ensure that I make it back home to my loved ones and family," he said. "My family moved to the suburbs to escape the violence and negative influences that the city has to offer, only for me to be afraid to go outside not due to being hit by a stray bullet but due to the possibility of being pulled over by a police officer."

The Rev. TC Anderson talked about America's history of racism, both during and after slavery, and referred to his experience as the child of a Black man and a white woman. He talked about how he found out after his beloved grandfather's death how his grandfather had refused to attend his mother and father's wedding, because she was marrying a Black man.

"I learned so much from my grandfather that I cherish deeply. He was an amazing grandfather to me and my sister and all of my cousins," he said. "I will take what he taught me. I will continue the traditions of puzzles and games and ice cream and cantaloupe. And I will learn from his mistakes and be better than his worst choices."

Anderson issued a call to action. "We have to be actively working against racism. We can't just be non-racist. We have to be anti-racist."

Images: Juneteenth observed around the country

  The First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights on Friday held its first outdoor socially distanced Juneteeth remembrance in its history. Approximately 75 people attended. Mark Welsh/
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